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WASHINGTON (AP) — Consumer prices barely changed for the third straight month, strengthening the Federal Reserve's hand at a time when it is defending a plan to boost the economy by buying more government debt.
Extraordinarily low inflation was a major impetus for the Fed program to spend $600 billion buying Treasury bonds. A report Wednesday from the Labor Department showed that inflation remains super-low.
A steep rise in gasoline prices drove the consumer price index up 0.2 percent in October, the fourth straight monthly increase. But excluding volatile food and energy costs, core consumer prices were unchanged for the third straight month. In the past year, the core index has risen only 0.6 percent, the smallest increase since the index began in 1957.
The data also comes on the same day the Commerce Department said construction of new homes and apartments sank 11.7 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 519,000 units. That was mainly because apartment construction, which represents less than 20 percent of the housing market, fell by more than 40 percent. The much larger single-family home category fell 1.1 percent.
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